Life sciences kicks off new Spring Spinoff Competition

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[media-credit name=”Luke Hansen” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Chet Chamberlain, a Biotechnology student, speaks during the Life Sciences Biotechnology Day on Wednesday in the MARB.
In light of a troubled economy and a wealth of opportunities in biotechnologies, BYU’s College of Life Sciences launched the new year-long biotechnology entrepreneurship competition to encourage students to develop biotechnology ideas and turn them into successful businesses.

The college kicked off the 2012 Spring Spinoff Competition Wednesday afternoon with cash prizes awarded to promising ideas entered in a preliminary biotechnology proposal competition. Seven of the 10 students who entered received $100 each for writing a short proposal detailing their idea for a biotechnology that could be commercialized.

Pedro Rodriguez, a junior majoring in genetics and biotechnology, earned his prize for a page-long essay about cultivating specialized hedges that grow long thorns to keep vandals out of crops, or hedges that grow a type of flowers that emit a natural repellent to deter pests.

“The basic idea was to make fences to protect crops from vandalism,” Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez said he came up with the idea when he watched a thorn bush prevent a burglar from breaking into his home.

The idea proposal competition served as a precursor to the full-fledged Spring Spinoff Competition the College of Life Sciences is hosting for the first time this year, according to physiology and environmental biology professor David Busath. The ideas he saw were rough, he said, but with the Spring Spinoff, students who enter the year-long competition will have the opportunity to flesh out those ideas with BYU professors.

So far, three teams are entered in the 2012 Spring Spinoff Competition, which is open to any BYU undergraduate student interested in developing a new biotechnology and proposing a spinoff business. Once the entrants have found a professor to act as a mentor, the entered teams will have a year to create a business map and plan before they present it before a board of investors in April 2012. A winning team will be selected and will receive a cash prize intended to give the students a means of launching the proposed business.

The rules are intentionally vague, according to Busath.

“We don’t want to exclude anyone,” he said.

The competition has no formal entry date, but Busath said students who are seriously interested in participating should get started on the project by Oct. 18.

The competition is part of an effort to teach life sciences students entrepreneurial skills.

“You simply need to know how to commercialize your education,” Rollins Center director Scott Peterson explained during an information session on Wednesday.

Those interested in joining the competition should send an email to .

Other students who won the proposal competition are : Jonathan Kershaw, Tyson Skeen, Evan Woods, Laura Gelder, Nelson Brandon Barba and Gustavo Velasquez.

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